Baseball BeatDecember 12, 2004
Winter Wonderland -- Day Two
By Rich Lederer

I returned to the Marriott on Saturday only to find that the clothes had changed but not the people. Jack McKeon was still outside puffing on a cigar -- presumably not the same one as last evening -- and the other cast of characters were inside, in some cases talking to the identical folks as the night before.

In between trips back and forth to the hotel, David Wells had become a Red Sox in a deal that makes a heckuva lot of sense to me for both parties. Boston is protected on the downside and Boomer has the ups that allow him to make as much as $18 million over the next two years.

Yesterday's crew was joined by Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts. Jon, Alex Ciepley, Peter White, and Jay Jaffe were talking to Steve Henson, the Los Angeles Times' new beat writer for the Dodgers, when I arrived. Jon, another one of the thirty-something crowd, speaks softly but carries a big stick when it comes to all things Dodgers.

Speaking of the Dodgers, Fred Claire is standing nearby and Tom Lasorda can be seen across the room. Paul DePodesta, on the other hand, has been conspicuously invisible thus far. He must be spending his time upstairs in the suites, discussing deals with the paying folks. There is a rumor on the floor that he and his pal Billy Beane are working on a trade involving Tim Hudson. Can you say bye-bye to Edwin Jackson, Dodger fans?

Beane apparently has put Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito out on the table with the idea of trading whichever one of the Big Three that can bring the most in return. Buying low and selling high. That's the Moneyball way.

It's 1:15 p.m. and stomachs are beginning to growl. The All-Baseball quartet meets up with Will Carroll for a sandwich in the hotel delicatessen. Peter Gammons, clad in slacks and tennis shoes, is ahead of us in line, ordering lunch to go. We set up shop outside at a round table that Jay is destined to knock over with his right foot.

Speaking of kicks, I can't help but look up to see the expressions on Jon's and Peter's faces when "Scoop" Carroll tells us that Adrian Beltre is all but signed and sealed in Seattle. The Dodgers apparently haven't even made an offer yet but Scott Boras is hopeful of giving DePo one last shot. By my way of thinking, Bill Bavasi has gotta come away from the meetings with either Beltre or Carlos Beltran in tow. Roll the dice, hope whoever you sign comes up big -- all the while knowing that if they don't, you're not gonna be around at the end anyway.

6-4-2's Rob McMillin joins us back in the lobby after lunch. Rob, Jon, and I are three locals who only have to pony up the $10 parking for the lot catty-corner to the hotel. Courtesy of Jon, we attended a Dodgers-Astros game in July in which I was impressed that Rob's wife kept score the entire game. Like pitchers of today, it seems as if so very few scorekeepers finish what they start.

Rob and I have different takes on Jered Weaver. He is of the belief that Weaver is essentially an unproven pitcher, someone who has never pitched at the professional level. Whereas Rob doesn't think Weaver should get millions of dollars, I maintain the opinion that he would be a much better value at $9 million for four years than his brother Jeff at $9 million for one year. There is no doubt in my mind that if Jered were allowed to negotiate with all of the teams, he would not only be considered a bargain at those terms but would most likely wind up with a deal similar to what Mark Prior received three years ago.

I excuse myself and approach Lasorda, introducing myself as George Lederer's son. Tommy puts a smile on my face when he tells me that my Dad was "a great, great man." I give Tommy my business card -- smartly designed by Alex Ciepley -- and he studies it for about 15 seconds while allowing me to sneak in what it is we all do.

McKeon walks by, exchanges pleasantries with the Hall of Fame manager (with a lifetime pitching record of 0-4 and a 6.48 ERA, he wasn't voted in as a player, right?), and proceeds to exit the hotel to light up another one. Given the fact that the Marlins failed to make the postseason this year, I don't think it's one of those Red Auerbach-victory cigars.

In the meantime, Tony Perez is making the rounds, still thanking the writers for voting him into the HOF five years ago. Matt Williams, looking as dapper in his suit and tie as any bald guy can, is another former player working the room.

After learning from Will that Jaret Wright had failed his physical, I call Alex Belth on my cell phone and the Bronx resident lets out a whoop so loud it could almost be heard in Anaheim. When I later learn that Wright passed a second physical, I want to reach out to Alex again but it occurs to me that our man Belth is probably toasting the Yankees' tentative deal with Carl Pavano.

I notice Tom Verducci standing alone for the first time since I've been there, so I walk over and tell him that Alex B. had asked me to say hello. Tom, who has movie-star looks especially when compared to many of us who have faces only suited for radio, recalls meeting Alex at the winter meetings last year in New Orleans.

Joined by my fellow A-Bers and a certain Futility Infielder, we wind up talking about Tom's Hall of Fame selections -- past, present, and future -- as well as rumored deals for about 15-20 minutes. Much to my chagrin, Bert Blyleven and Ryne Sandberg won't appear on Tom's ballot this year. Wade Boggs will "of course" and Jim Rice is a "probable."

I thank Tom for his time, speaking of which I realize that I am in need of calling it a day. We're hosting my older brother's 53rd birthday in conjunction with our community's Christmas Boat Parade in about an hour so I better hurry on home before the guests arrive.

I'm looking forward to my return trip on Sunday which, if all goes as planned, will be an extra special day in the life of Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT. Suffice it to say, there will be no NFL football games on my agenda.


Jim Rice over Blyleven and/or Sandberg? Someone make me understand his reasoning. I mean his occupation is writing/knowing baseball and mine is owning a few Domino's I am missing something? I grew up watching all 3 guys, just do not understand........

More importantly than giving guys such as Weaver millions of dollars, you do not give them guaranteed professional contracts. Down that path lies the road to recreating the Washington Senators of old, who used to draft and play raw high schoolers -- i.e., madness. Great to see you again and I may just show up later today for an auld lang syne appearance.

I am yet to figure out what on earth it is going to take to get Ryno into the HOF....

Sportswriter or no, the guy is an idiot, baseball wise. Like was said above Rice over Sandberg??, Boggs over Sandberg is questionable, but especially on a first ballot. Boggs HOF status is debatable but is most definitely does not have first ballot qualifications. Unfortunately as to Blyleven he seems more borderline, maybe someone who could get in via the Veterans Committee eventually. What about the relief pitchers that have been ignored starting with Sutter? He was the first of his kind and was absoulutely dominant for a number of years.

"Boggs HOF status is debatable"

You obviously haven't been following this blog for more than a week. Check out Rich's coverage of Boggs...pretty eye-opening.

The Long Beach Boat Parade is quite an event, I gather.